Cherevichki (Черевички), sometimes translated in English as The Fancy Slippers or Oxana's Caprices, is an opera in 4 acts and 8 scenes (TH 8 ; ČW 8). It was adapted by Tchaikovsky between February and April 1885 (with revisions in November and December 1886), from his early comic opera Vakula the Smith (1874).
The opera is scored for solo voices, mixed chorus, and an orchestra comprising of piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets (in A, B-flat, C), 2 bassoons + 4 horns (in F), 2 trumpets (in B-flat, E), 3 trombones, tuba + 2 timpani, triangle, tambourine, cymbals, bass drum + harp, violins I, violins II, violas, cellos and double basses. An offstage military (wind) band is also used in Act III (Nos. 19 and 23).
There are thirteen singing roles:
- Vakula (Вакула) — tenor
- Solokha (Солоха) — mezzo-soprano
- Chub (Чуб) — 1st bass
- Oksana (Оксана) — soprano
- Devil (Бес) — 1st bass
- Schoolmaster (Школьный учитель) — tenor
- Pan Golova (Пан Голова) — 2nd bass
- Panas (Панас) — 2nd tenor
- His Highness (Светлейший) — 2nd bass
- Master of Ceremonies (Церемониймейстер) — 2nd bass
- Attendant (Дежурный) — 2nd tenor
- Old Cossack (Старый запорожец) — 2nd bass
- Wood Goblin (Голос лешего) — 2nd bass
Movements and Duration
The titles, numbering and tempo markings are taken from the first edition of the full score, published in 1885. Act 2 is divided into two scenes. The titles of numbers in Russian (Cyrillic) are taken from the published score, with English translations added in bold type. Vocal incipits are given in the right-hand column, with transliterations below in italics.
| Overture (Увертюра)
Andante con moto—Allegro giusto
|Act I||Scene 1||No. 1||Scene (Сцена)
|Ой, как светит месяц ясный|
Oi, kak svetit mesyats yasny
| Duet: Solokha with the Devil (Дуэт: Солоха с Бесом)
| Оседлаю помело|
|No. 2|| Snowstorm (Выюга)
| Зх раззадорила, растор мошила|
Ekh razzadorila, rastormoshila
|Scene 2||No. 3|| Oksana's Aria (Ария Оксаны)
| Ишь ты, какая вьюга!|
Ish ty, kakaya vyuga!
|No. 4|| Scene (Сцена)
| Не может наглядется на себя|
Ne mozhet naglyadetsya na sebya
| Vakula's Arioso (Ариозо Вакулы)
| О, что мне мать, что мне отец!|
O, chto mne mat, chto mne otets!
|No. 5|| Scene (Сцена)
| Вишь какой!|
|No. 6|| Scene (Сцена)
| Что тут за гвалт?|
Chto tut za gvalt?
| Duet (Дуэт)
Allegro ma non troppo e un poco rubato
| То ли дело другой!|
To li delo drugoy!
|No. 7|| Closing Scene (Заключительная сцена)
| Эх, кабы люди да умнее были|
Ekh, kaby lyudi da umneye byli
|Act II||Scene 3|| Entr'acte (Антракт)
|No. 8|| Scene: Solokha with the Devil (Сцена: Солоха с Бесом)
| Вихрем веник унесло|
Vikhrem venik uneslo
|No. 9|| Scene: Solokha with the Mayor (Сцена: Солоха с Головой)
| Вот это снег!|
Vot eto sneg!
|No. 10|| Scene: Solokha with the Schoolmaster (Сцена: Солоха с Школьным учителем)
| Нет, никого?!|
| Schoolmaster's Song (Песенка Школьного учителя)
Allegro moderato—Andantino con moto
| Баба к бесу привязалась|
Baba k besu privyazalas
|No. 11|| Scene: Solokha with Chub (Сцена: Солоха с Чубом)
| Здорово! Ах, мой миленький|
Zdorovo! Akh, moy milenky
| Quintet (Квинтет)
Andante non troppo
| О люте, люте мне, Солоха!|
O lyute, lyute mne, Solokha!
|No. 12|| Vakula's Arioso (Ариозо Вакулы)
| Вот уже год прешëл и снова|
Vot uzhe god preshyol i snova
|Scene 4||No. 13|| Chorus Scene (Сцена хора)
Andante non troppo
| Выросла у тына красная калина|
Vyrosla i tyna krasnaya kalina
|No. 14|| Scene (Сцена)
| Что, Оксана, ты замешкалась?|
Chto, Oksana, ty zameshkalas?
| Cherevichki Song (Песнь о черевичках)
| Черевички, невелички|
|No. 15|| Finale (Финал)
| А! Вакула!|
|Act III||Scene 5|| Entr'acte (Антракт)
Andante non tanto
|No. 16|| Chorus of Rusalkas (Хор русалок)
| Темно нам, темно темнешëнко|
Temno nam, temno temeshyonko
|No. 17|| Scene (Сцена)
| Куда это забрëл я?!|
Kuda eto zabryol ya?!
| Vakula's Song (Песня Вакулы)
| Слышит ли, девица, сердце твоë|
Slyshit li, devitsa, serdtse tvoyo
|Scene 6||No. 18|| Scene (Сцена)
|Scene 7||No. 19|| Polonaise (Польский)
Tempo di Polacca. Molto maestoso
| Не в рай ли я перенесен!|
Ne v ray li ya perenesen!
|No. 20|| His Highness's Couplets (Куплеты Светлейшего)
| Пока не началися танцы|
Poka ne nachilisya tantsy
|No. 21|| Minuet and Scene (Менуэт и сцена)
Tempo di Menuetto
| Благополучно ли вы совершили путь?|
Blagopoluchno li vy sovershili put?
|No. 22a|| Russian Dance (Русская пляска)
|No. 22b|| Cossack Dance (Пляска запорожцев)
|No. 23|| Scene (Сцена)
Andante non troppo
| Сейчас начнëтся домашнем|
Seychas nachnyotsya domashnem
|Act IV||Scene 8||No. 24|| Duet: Oksana and Solokha (Дуэт: Оксана с Солоха)
| Кто говориту-то пился!|
Kto govoritu-to pilsya!
|No. 25|| Finale (Финал)
Allegro moderato—Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso
| К нам милости просим|
K nam milosti prosim
The complete opera lasts around 180 minutes in performance.
- See also Vakula the Smith.
The libretto for Vakula the Smith was originally devised by Yakov Polonsky, based on the story Christmas Eve (Ночь перед Рождеством) by Nikolay Gogol, which was published as the second story in the collection Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka (Вечера на хуторе близ Диканьки) (1831–32). Tchaikovsky substantially revised the libretto for Cherevichki, and Vakula's Song (Act III, No. 17) was set to a new text by Nikolay Chayev.
The story is set in the Ukraine and Saint Petersburg, during the reign of Catherine the Great.
Act I. On a moonlit night in the Ukrainian village of Dikanka (Scene 1), the witch Solokha is approached by the amorous Devil. The Devil is upset with the smith Vakula (Solokha's son) for painting an ugly picture of him in the local church. As he flies off with Solokha, the Devil raises a snowstorm and steals the moon, so as to wreck Vakula's courtship of Oksana, daughter of the cossack Chub, who is now seen stumbling drunkenly through the darkness with his friend Panas. In Chub's hut (Scene 2), Oksana is admiring herself in her mirror and has little time for his wooing when Vakula arrives. When Chub lurches in, covered with snow, Vakula fails to recognise him and throws him out. Oksana then furiously drives Vakula away, pretending that she loves someone else. But when she is alone, listening to the village girls sing Christmas carols, she confesses her love for him.
Act II. While Solokha is flirting with the Devil in her hut (Scene 1), they are interrupted by a knock at the door. The Devil hides in a sack while Solokha admits the mayor Pan Golova, who then also sings of his love for Solokha. After another knock at the door, the mayor hides in another sack, and the scene is repeated in turn with the schoolmaster and Chub, each hiding in a sack as the next one declares his love for Solokha. The final guest is Vakula. Unhappy love must have made him weak, he thinks, as he staggers out carrying the mysteriously heavy sacks to make space in the hut for the Christmas festivities. Outside (Scene 2), Oksana is among a crowd of carollers. She admires a pair of slippers (cherevichki) which a friend is wearing. When Vakula, arriving with the sacks, offers to find her a better pair, she mockingly promises to marry him if he will bring the Tsarina's own slippers. Vakula leaves miserably, still carrying the sack containing the Devil, while the mayor, schoolmaster and Chub emerge from the other sacks, to the astonishment and amusement of the carollers.
Act III. On the moonlit bank of the river (Scene 1), Vakula is tempted by the water-sprites (rusalkas) to throw himself into the waters. But when the Devil creeps out of the sack and tries to bargain for his soul, Vakula seizes him by the tail. With the Devil at his mercy, Vakula leaps on his back and forces him to fly to the Tsarina's palace in Saint Petersburg. They arrive at the palace (Scene 2) at the same time as a band of Cossacks, who have been granted an audience with the Tsaritsa. While a ball is in progress in the Great Hall of the palace (Scene 3), Vakula and the Cossacks are received in the throne room by the Prince. Vakula's request for the slippers is met with amusement, but his wish is granted, and amid the festivities he slips away again on the Devil's back.
Act IV. On a sunny Christmas morning in front of the church in Dikanka, all the villagers are rejoicing, except for Solokha and Oksana, who are worried about Vakula's disappearance. Suddenly, Vakula is seen approaching. He has brought the slippers for Oksana, who admits that she has loved him all along. Chub gives the young couple his blessings, to general rejoicing .
Tchaikovsky first mentioned his intention to revise Vakula the Smith on 28 April/10 May 1884, when Tchaikovsky wrote to Pyotr Jurgenson: "I will certainly revise Vakula the Smith. I am thoroughly convinced that it is worth doing. I will complete the revision this coming winter, and will attempt to have it staged in the 1885/86 season" .
The composer also told Nadezhda von Meck, Pyotr Jurgenson and Modest Tchaikovsky about the intended changes to Vakula the Smith . In a letter to Nadezhda von Meck dated 24 November/6 December, Tchaikovsky wrote: "I am rather busy in the mornings, namely I am contemplating changes which I intend to introduce to my opera "Vakula the Smith. This is one of my favourite creations—but I am not blind to the fundamental shortcomings which afflict the opera and prevent it from remaining in the repertoire. I want to spend a few months removing those shortcomings, so that the opera can be staged the next season in Moscow" .
During a sojourn in Paris in the winter of 1885, Tchaikovsky, in his words, "managed here to plan all the major changes to Vakula"  . In fact he commenced working on the revision to the opera in mid/late February, while settled at Maydanovo: "I started my work on Vakula with a fervent, fiery zeal" . On 20 February/4 March 1885 Tchaikovsky reported: "I have written completely new scenes; everything that was bad I have discarded, everything that was good I have retained, simplifying unwieldy and overbearing harmonies—in a word I have done everything required to rescue the opera from the oblivion that it certainly did not deserve" . And in the same letter he wrote that in a few days he would set to work on orchestration of all the newly-written sections.
On 4/16 March 1885 in a letter to his brother Modest, Tchaikovsky reported: "My work is not progressing speedily enough, but how happy it makes me! How pleased I am to think that my Vakula shall re-emerge from oblivion". And the composer asked Modest to devise a new name for the opera: "I do not want either Vakula the Smith, or Christmas Eve, or The Empress's Shoes—it must be something else" . The opera was entitled Cherevichki: "I intend to change the title because there are other Vakula the Smiths..." . All the changes to the opera " Vakula the Smith were finished by 23 March/4 April .
In April the opera was accepted for staging in Moscow . On 22 April/4 May the opera was considered at a management meeting in the theatre, and on 1/13–2/15 May Tchaikovsky was tidying up the libretto, "which before it goes to press I must show it to Yakov Polonsky (author of the original libretto)" . On 2/14 Tchaikovsky wrote that he had sent the libretto with all the additions he had made to Pyotr Jurgenson for publishing .
The revision of Vakula the Smith introduced the following major changes into the opera: the scene and duet of Vakula and Oksana (No. 6) were expanded, and the final scene of Act I (No. 7) was written anew; the Schoolteacher's Song and the Quintet in Act II were newly composed, as were His Highness's couplets in Act III. Besides this, the composer introduced a number of changes to the recitatives. In many recitative episodes, developed orchestral parts were replaced by a simple chordal accompaniment, which significantly simplified the orchestral texture. In the overture one bar was added before the recapitulation, and the harmony was changed slightly .
After the new score had already been compiled, apparently during rehearsals, Tchaikovsky altered the instrumentation in Oksana's aria, as well as the beginning of the vocal part .
At the request of Dmitry Usatov, who sang the part of Vakula, Tchaikovsky wrote an additional song for Vakula in the first scene of the third act to words by the poet Nikolay Chayev .
Despite the directorate's promise, the staging of Cherevichki did not take place in the 1885/86 season, owing to the prolonged illness of Ippolit Altani and Tchaikovsky's reluctance to engage another, less experienced conductor. An offer by the author to conduct the opera by himself, received a sympathetic reaction in the theatre; nevertheless, due to apparent constraints of the repertoire, the premiere was rescheduled for the next season .
The first performance of Cherevichki took place on 19/31 January 1887 in Moscow at the Bolshoi Theatre. The composer himself conducted the first three performances. This was the start of Tchaikovsky's career as a conductor. On 4/16 December 1886 he wrote to Modest Tchaikovsky: "Today… an event of great significance for me has occurred. I conducted at the first orchestral rehearsal, and in such a way that (if this isn't just boasting) surprised everyone, because everyone expected that I would disgrace myself … Now I know that I can conduct" . After the première Tchaikovsky described his debut: "At the appointed time I felt semi-conscious. When the fateful moment came, I walked to the podium like an automaton. Deafening applause broke out, wreathes were handed down from the stage, and the orchestra played a flourish. At once I began to feel relaxed. I began the overture very confidently, and as time went on I became calmer and calmer… The unanimous view is that I am a talented conductor" . After 6/18 March 1888 the opera Cherevichki was not staged during the Tchaikovsky's lifetime. On 1/13 December 1891 Tchaikovsky conducted its overture at a charity concert in Saint Petersburg.
In 1885 Pyotr Jurgenson published the piano score of the opera  and the orchestral parts; the full score of the opera was only printed in 1898 . Aleksandra Hubert assisted Tchaikovsky with proof-reading and the piano arrangement of some numbers . The third set of proofs, it seems, were checked by Tchaikovsky alone. On 8/20 July 1885 he wrote to Sergey Taneyev: "... I am overwhelmed with proofs of the opera" .
Responding to the enquiry by Pyotr Jurgenson regarding the possibility of selling individual numbers from Vakula the Smith , Tchaikovsky replied: "Vakula the Smith should have been destroyed a long time ago. One can certainly sell individual numbers, but only a few of them remain unchanged:
- In the 2nd act—the entr'acte and 4th scene (I refer to the Vakula numbering, not that of Cherevichki).
- In the 3rd act—the entr'acte and rusalkas' chorus.
- In the 3rd act—the Polonaise and Minuet, both dance numbers
- The duet of Oksana and Solokha ("Some say he has drowned", etc).
That is it. All other numbers, including the overture, have been changed". In the same letter he told Jurgenson: "I certainly believe in the future of Cherevichki as a repertoire opera", Tchaikovsky wrote, "and in terms of music I regard it as among the best of my operas" .
The full score and vocal-piano arrangements of Cherevichki were published in volumes 7 and 39 respectively of Tchaikovsky's Complete Collected Works (1951), edited by V. D. Vasilyev.
Tchaikovsky's full and vocal scores of Cherevichki are now preserved in the Glinka National Museum Consortium of Musical Culture in Moscow (ф. 88, Nos. 46 and 47). The Library of the Rimsky-Korsakov State Conservatory in Saint Petersburg also has a set of parts for offstage band in the composer's hand.
In Act III, No. 17, the melody of Vakula's Song (from bar 21), is based on the folktune 'Oh, Don't Scare the Fearful' (Ой, не пугай, пугаченьку), taken from Aleksandr Rubets' collection of Ukrainian folk songs (part 1, No. 1) .
The Russian Dance in the same act (No. 22a), includes the folktunes 'Do Not Fly, Falcon' (Не летаи же ты, сокол) — used as No. 5 of Vasily Prokunin's 65 Russian Folksongs — and 'My Green Vineyard' (Зеленок мое виноградье), which Tchaikovsky arranged as No. 11 of Fifty Russian Folksongs (1868-69).
Notes and References
- From The Tchaikovsky Handbook, vol. 1 (2002), p. 64–65 [back]
- Letter 2480 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 28 April/10 May 1884 [back]
- See Letter 2605 to Nadezhda von Meck, 24 November/6 December 1884; Letter 2504 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 12/24–13/25 June 1884; Letter 2617 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 3/15 December 1884 [back]
- Letter 2605 to Nadezhda von Meck, 24 November/6 December 1884 [back]
- Letter 2617 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 3/15 December 1884 [back]
- Letter 2657 to Nadezhda von Meck, 16/28 February 1885 [back]
- Letter 2661 to Emiliya Pavlovskaya, 20 February/4 March 1885 [back]
- Letter 2666 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 4/16 March 1885 [back]
- Letter 2672 to Emiliya Pavlovskaya, 14/26 March 1885 [back]
- See date on the autograph full score, and Letter 2678 to Nadezhda von Meck, 3/15–9/21 April 1885 [back]
- See Letter 2693 to Lev Davydov, 26 April/8 May 1885 [back]
- Letter 2701 to Nadezhda von Meck, 30 April/12 May 1885 [back]
- See Letter 2703 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 2/14 May 1885 [back]
- The following sections of Cherevichki were newly-composed or rescored: Overture (bars 63, 67–82); Act I, No. 1 (bars 193–207), No. 2 (bars 110–111, 127–168, 176), No. 3 (bars 97–111), No. 4 (bars 57–73, 86–103), No. 5 (bars 1–13, 22–40), No. 6 (bars 1–4, 31–178); Act II, No. 10 (bars 51–102), No. 11 (bars 25–82), No. 12 (bars 52–54), No. 13 (bars 65–94, 132–153), No. 14 (bars 78–96, 143–157, 168–182, 253–260); Act III, No. 17 (bars 8–16, 20–126), No. 19 (bars 114–164), No. 23 (bars 25–51); Act IV, No. 25 (bars 82–137, 315–339). Throughout the rest of the opera Tchaikovsky made numerous alterations to dynamic, phrasing and tempo markings [back]
- Until 1940 this version of the orchestration remained unknown and unperformed [back]
- The composer’s diaries show that on 22 November 1886 [O.S.] he met with Nikolay Chayev, who provided the text for the song, although there is no reference to their discussing the opera [back]
- See Letter 2674, 16/28 March 1885 and Letter 2692, 23 April/5 May 1885, to Aleksandra Hubert [back]
- See Letter 2772 to Nadezhda von Meck, 22 September/4 October 1885; Letter 2833 to Nadezhda von Meck, 11/23 December 1885; Letter 2813 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 19 November/1 December 1885; and Chapter 1 of Tchaikovsky's Autobiographical Account of a Tour Abroad in the Year 1888 [back]
- Letter 3115 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 4/16 December 1886 [back]
- Letter 3155 to Praskovya Tchaikovskaya, 22 January/3 February 1887 [back]
- Passed by the censor on 14/26 June 1885 [back]
- Passed by the censor on 23 March/4 April 1898. The piano score of the opera Cherevichki, was republished in 1901, 1917 and 1940 using the same plates, but with slight retouchings to the titles of the numbers [back]
- See Letter 2674, 16/28 March 1885; Letter 2692, 23 April/5 May 1885; Letter 2720, 11/23 June 1885; and Letter 2847a, undated, all to Aleksandra Hubert [back]
- Letter 2733 to Sergey Taneyev, 8/20 July 1885 [back]
- See letter from Pyotr Jurgenson to Tchaikovsky, 30 June/12 August 1890 — Klin House-Museum Archive [back]
- Letter 4163 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 2/14 July 1890 [back]
- See Двести шестнадцать украивских напевов записал и издал А. И. Рубец (Moscow: P. Jurgenson, 1872) [back]